top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureWendy Percival

A memorial bear

My Dad’s old teddy inadvertently led me to a family history discovery this week. But, as is often the case in these situations, it raised more questions than it answered.


Yesterday was the five-year anniversary of my dad’s death. Recently, as some of you may recall, I’d dug out a tape recording of my dad talking about his childhood and early life (see Revisiting Memories). Much of it I’d already transcribed, but I thought it was about time I typed up the rest of it, only to find that the Dictaphone we’d used wasn’t working. Later, I’d discovered that the machine had been put on the slow setting and a flick of the switch had solved the problem! Doh!


However, when I came to rewind the tape back to the beginning, disaster struck. The tape snapped, leaving the end lost inside the cassette casing and therefore unable to play.


Unlike their larger cousins, mini-tapes aren’t held together with screws, so with no obvious way to get inside and retrieve the loose end, I put it aside with a sigh.


But with Dad on my mind this week because of the poignant anniversary, I decided to adopt a Repair Shop mindset and try to crack the tape open, determined to reattach the end of the tape to the spool so I could listen to the playback.


Well, to say it was fiddly is a gross understatement, but yesterday I did it - with the help of my magnifying over-glasses, the flat edge of a tiny sewing machine screwdriver and some narrow slices of Sellotape! Yay! Now I can get on with that transcription.


Dad’s teddy


So where does Dad’s old teddy come into this story, I hear you ask? I have to confess that Ted didn’t play any part in the tape restoration project, but he did play a part in my plans to commemorate yesterday’s significant anniversary, leading me to the discovery.


Ted has always looked a tad down-at-heel – well, he is very old, and that’s where this all started when we were wondering exactly how old he must be. Dad always used to say he’d had Ted as long as he could remember, and I had an idea I’d seen Ted in a photograph when Dad was a small child. I scoured the early photo albums and found this picture.



Could it be Ted that Dad is holding in his arms? If so – and estimating this photo to have been taken when Dad was about 4 years old, around 1933 – it would mean Ted’s approaching the grand age of 90. No wonder he looks so worn out!


There’s not a lot of Ted’s fur left and his growler no longer works. If I had the expertise of The Repair Shop’s “teddy bear ladies”, I’d unpick his body, give him a wash and replace his growler. But I don’t, and if I was to try I’d be worried he might totally disintegrate!


So instead, I decided to make Ted a new outfit in memory of Dad. And here Ted is wearing it… Very dapper, don’t you agree? I think it makes him look 20 years younger!



Family history discovery


And as for that family history discovery… it’s all in the photograph of Dad, my gran (behind him) and my great-grandmother (seated). Standing at the back, right, is my great aunt Annie – my gran’s sister, Mary Ann Diggory, who’d left the family home as a teenager and allegedly was not in touch again until she was an old lady.


I’d already debunked that myth up to a point, having discovered that Annie had returned to the area where she grew up after training as a nurse in Surrey, and had lived with her maternal aunt for at least nine years in Shrewsbury, not so very far from the rest of the family. But clearly, as this photograph shows, she’s definitely in contact at the time Dad was a small child. Had there been a reconciliation when she’d returned to live with her aunt?



But this is 1933. Two years later, Annie would become the sole beneficiary of her Aunt Mary’s estate, giving her enough capital to buy her own house. Knowing what a divisive subject inheritance can be, I wondered – had the bequest caused a rift within the family? Because by this time, Annie would cite friends Mr & Mrs Edwin Murrell, the couple she lived with for several years after the death of her aunt, as her “next of kin” and not her family, although both her parents were still alive at the time.


I guess there are always questions to which we may never know the answers.


 



4 Comments


Carolyn Retallick
Carolyn Retallick
May 07, 2021

As always your family stories are fascinating, Wendy. I just love "The Repair Shop" and I wandered off to the link about the teddy bear ladies, and then just kept following the links to the other interviews! I think your dad's teddy indeed looks very dapper in his new suit! I am so glad you managed to mend the tape. Perhaps there's a vacancy in the Repair Shop for a tape restorer! 😄

Like
Wendy Percival
Wendy Percival
May 07, 2021
Replying to

🤣🤣 A new career in tape mending, eh? Well it’s different, Carolyn, I give you that! Yes, I was really interested in reading the Teddy Bear Ladies’ story, about how their teddy bear shop led them becoming the repair and restoration team they are now. Clearly they love their job and very good they are at it, too!

Like

maureenlister25
maureenlister25
May 07, 2021

Lovely stories. I do enjoy a family mystery. My written family stories include several "possiblies". My favourite is an ancestor who had an illegitimate child in late 1918- the child's birth certificate names the correct mother, with her maiden name given as her married name and her dead brother's name as the father. The family gossip named the father as a Canadian and I have found a distant cousin of hers whose family had emigrated to Canada, had come to England with the Canadian forces and would have been in the right place at the right time. I can't prove it, but it's a strong "possibly" as he would "possibly" have visited family if he was based within a few…

Like
Wendy Percival
Wendy Percival
May 07, 2021
Replying to

Oh, what a brilliant story, Maureen! That’s fascinating. And so sad, too. You can see how plausible it is - her falling in love with someone who reciprocated but the family were scared of losing her abroad and put a stop to it. I guess DNA could prove a connection, if it was ever possible to find the right parties to take the tests. My first thought in Annie’s story was that she’d left home because she got pregnant, but I’ve never found a birth record that fits. Of course, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen - she may have lost the baby, it could have been stillborn (they didn’t register stillborn babies until 1926) or she registered it under another…

Like
bottom of page